I can’t breathe

In the heart of every parent lies an unspoken promise, a vow to protect, nurture, and safeguard their child’s well-being at all costs. 

Yet, for Mr Benjamin Adu-Asamoah and his wife, that promise shattered into a million irreparable pieces with the loss of their beloved daughter, Magdalene Abobea Adu Asamoah.


Magdalene’s dreams were as vast as the African sky. According to Magdalene’s father, she harboured aspirations of becoming a lawyer, a dream that was nurtured by her inquisitive nature and her close relationship with him, a police inspector.

From a young age, Magdalene would often pose questions about the intricacies of law enforcement, seeking to understand what it took to gather and preserve evidence in the pursuit of justice in a world often marred by injustice.

For this reason, she put a lot of effort into her studies.

But tragically, those dreams were snuffed out prematurely.

In June 2001, she wrote, “I fell sick today.

I threw up during lunch and after supper when Mr Awudetsey asked Ursula to mix glucose for me.”

Magdalene’s struggle continued as she chronicled her emotional distress in her diary.

By June 20, 2001, she expressed her feelings of depression.

She recounted Mr Awudetsey’s call, where he inquired about her well-being but dismissed her troubles.

“I was feeling down and depressed that I nearly cried”.


In the wake of Magdalene’s passing, her final words, “I can’t breathe,” etched on a note she left beside her bed when she was gasping for breath.

Meanwhile, initial reports by the school claimed that she had succumbed to her illness after bravely venturing to pray for a sick colleague.

This poignant message served as a haunting reminder of the severity of her circumstances and the urgency of her distress.

Tragically, Magdalene’s life came to an abrupt end.

The autopsy report revealed that Magdalene’s cause of death was acute gastritis, a condition characterised by severe inflammation of the stomach lining.

This revelation cast a somber light on the circumstances surrounding her passing, prompting a closer examination of the school’s role in her demise.

Over the years our school system has become a centre for homicide negligence.

The issue of homicide negligence within the context of our school systems is deeply concerning.

Under Ghanaian Law, homicide negligence refers to where a person negligently causes the death of another person where the person owed a duty of care towards the other person but failed to do so and caused the death of that other person, Section 72 of Act 29.

This negligence can manifest in various forms, including inadequate supervision, failure to address safety concerns, and neglect to provide timely medical care.

Tragically, instances of homicide negligence in schools can have devastating consequences, leading to the unnecessary loss of young lives.

To address issues of homicide negligence and exposure to harm in schools, it is crucial to implement comprehensive safety measures and protocols that prioritise the well-being of students above all else.

The regulatory regime in our schools has often prioritised exercising administrative powers over protecting the lives of children.

This focus on maintaining authority and control can lead to the excessive use of discretionary powers in a manner that is so rigid, unmalleable and taut, particularly in junior and senior high schools.

This reality has had dire consequences, particularly in Senior High Schools (SHS), where students have tragically lost their lives due to the denial of essential medical care.

When students are denied access to necessary medical attention or support services, they are left vulnerable and at risk.

Subsequently, this neglect can result in preventable tragedies where young lives are lost due to the failure of the system to prioritise their needs and rights.


As we confront the devastating consequences of this regulatory approach, it becomes increasingly clear that urgent reforms are needed.

We must shift our focus from wielding administrative power to safeguarding the lives and well-being of our children.

By placing a greater emphasis on empathy, compassion, and proactive support, we can create safer and more nurturing school environments where every child can thrive.

The ultimate goal of any regulatory system must have the welfare of the child as the centre of its operation.

In the age of modernity, where technological advancements and innovative ideas shape our world, it is imperative that we cultivate a holistic framework to protect the interests of all stakeholders, particularly within the realm of education.

For instance, access to information cannot be concealed due to the advancement in technology.


After two decades, lives are still being lost under similar circumstances as evidenced by the death of Stacy Okyere at Aburi Girls Senior High School and Kester Vadje of Akim Swedru Senior High School earlier this year.

This underscores the need for reforms to address issues of negligence and prioritise the protection of every individual within the educational environment.

Let us heed this solemn call to action, ensuring that no more young lives are lost due to systemic failures.

The writer is the CEO of Child Rights International.

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